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"Bridge to Captain Kirk."

The captain turned away from the computer in his quarters and flipped a switch. "Kirk here."

Sulu's voice came over the grid. "We're ready to leave orbit, Captain."

"Proceed on course to Starbase 12. Warp factor 2."

"Aye, aye, sir."

Kirk switched off the intercom and leaned back in his chair with his hands behind his head.

Spock, sitting in a chair at the other end of the room, was strumming his lyrette, then set the instrument aside. "My commendations on your diplomatic abilities."

Kirk shrugged with a smile. "The Halkans haven't agreed to anything solid yet. But at least when the Federation sends an ambassador all the preliminary discussions will be out of the way."

Spock's eyes smiled. "I have no doubt that they will grant us mining rights. Also, I believe it likely that the Halkans will eventually join the Federation."

Kirk was still smiling. "That would be nice, wouldn't it?" He sighed as he stood. "Whatever happens, I'm relieved to be leaving this area of space." He shook his head with a faraway look. "It's hard to believe all of that really happened."

Spock also stood and took a few steps toward him. "I assure you it was all quite real."

Kirk pulled off his shirt as he moved into the sleeping area. "It's hard to stop wondering how many other parallel universes are out there. How many Jim Kirks there are, and what those Jim Kirks are like...." He dropped his shirt down the recycling chute, and began to unfasten his pants. "Don't you wonder about all those other Spocks?"

Spock had followed Kirk into the bedroom and was shedding himself of his blue tunic. "I gave it mugh thought after hearing your initial report. I concluded that we currently do not have the technology to answer the question of how many such universes there may be, nor what the people in those universes are like." He pulled the black t-shirt over his head.

"Which means," Kirk said, taking off his last sock and tossing it and his pants into the chute, "that you've decided it's illogical to continue to dwell on the subject."

Spock stepped out of his pants. "That is essentially correct."

Clad only in his black briefs, Kirk got on the bed without bothering to pull the sheets back. He laid back against a pillow and watched his first officer folding his clothes. "Well, I did exist in that other universe for a few hours, and it's hard to just scrub off the memory." He paused before adding: "It's... disturbing."

Spock was now also down to his black briefs, and he sat down on the bed beside Kirk. "What is it that disturbs you?" he asked gently.

Kirk sighed and scooted down further on the bed to get more comfortable. "The brutality, mostly. You had to watch your back every minute, Spock. And...." He shook his head with despair. "They were going to destroy the Halkans just because they wouldn't give their Empire mining rights. Gods, I hope their Spock found some way of stopping it."

Spock laid a hand on his captain's chest. "You can be most persuasive."

Kirk shook his head. "I don't know if it was enough, Spock. He still had his Kirk to deal with. And their Kirk seemed to be a... well... a pretty rotten guy."

Spock moved further onto the bed. He lay on top of the human and let his elbows support a weight as he ran a hand through his captain's hair. "I assume they did not have a relationship similar to ours."

Kirk rested his hands on his first officer's shoulders. "I don't know," he said with a far-off expression. "While I was there, I never really considered it – mainly because it seemed impossible that such a relationship could even exist between them; they were both too suspicious." His gaze returned to the present and focussed on Spock. "But now that I've returned and thought back on it, it's possible that they could have had a relationship."

Spock arched a doubtful eyebrow. "Even though their Kirk had a permanent female companion?"

Kirk moved his hands from Spock's shoulders to the Vulcan's back and began a light massage. "I know. It doesn't seem to fit, does it? But she did talk as though things between her and... Kirk... hadn't been too hot lately, like their relationship had gone downhill since...," he shrugged, "since I-don't-know-when. But I got the impression that their Kirk had hardened over time, and she, of course, didn't care for his new ways very much."

"Do you think the deterioration of their arrangement was due to a possible relationship with Spock?"

Kirk scratched along his Vulcan's spine. "It's possible, but that's not the thing that makes me think their Kirk and Spock may have been lovers."

Spock smiled in appreciation of the attention he was receiving. "What other evidence do you have?"

"In the transporter room... I didn't think anything of it at the time, but when Spock began to operate the controls, he said something like, 'You must be returned to you universe, and I must have my captain back'." Kirk moved one hand up and combed it through his companion's hair. "I know that doesn't sound like much, but... it's the way he said it... almost possessively." He smiled, the shrugged. "You'd have had to be there to understand what I mean."

"I believe you," Spock reassured. Still keeping his weight on his elbows, he stretched an arm forward so his fingers could stroke the captain's face.

"And then," Kirk continued, "while we were having sort of an argument in the corridor regarding the Halkans, he was insisting that it was necessary to destroy them so that terror was maintained in the Empire. And I, of course, was trying to indicate that destruction wasn't the only solution. Anyway, there was one point where he said, 'Captain, I do not wish to find myself opposing you'." Kirk's hands ceased their movement as he relived the memory. "He sounded so... weary... like it was an old argument."

Spock's eyebrows darted up in surprise. "Do you mean that his Kirk may have often wanted to disobey the Empire?"

Kirk scoffed. "I'd like to think that was the case, but I can't imagine anyone as barbaric as he was trying to find ways not to kill." His voice softened. "No... it was more like that Spock was tired of always fighting... fighting what, I'm not sure. Maybe he was just tired of trying to survive in an illogical universe; though, when the situation called for it, it seemed he could be as ruthless as any of them."

"But you thought it indicated his affection for his captain?"

Kirk applied pressure to Spock's back and the Vulcan obediently lad down against him. He kissed his friend on the forehead, then resumed the back rub. "I got the impression that fighting Kirk was the last thing he wanted. He wanted to serve his Kirk, not fight him."

Spock rubbed his cheek against the smooth chest beneath him. "I do not envy his situation."

Kirk grunted. "Neither do I."

They were silent for awhile as Kirk's hands drifted down to the small of Spock's back, and then down further to the black-clad buttocks. He firmly kneaded the thin hemispheres. Spock closed his eyes.

"I feel so... fortunate," the human whispered.

Spock didn't open his eyes. "Specify, please."

Kirk shrugged as best he could while lying with a Vulcan on top of him. "I've got everything," he whispered. "I've got you, my ship, respect from my crew, my youth, good friends... and I don't have someone trying to kill me everywhere I turn." He wrapped both arms around Spock and squeezed. "If there are a myriad of parallel universes, this one has to be the best."

"I, too, would not wish to be anywhere else," Spock agreed.

Kirk smiled and ruffled a hand through Spock's hair. "You're supposed to point out that it's all relevant as to which universe is the 'best'."

"I knew what you meant."

Silence followed as Kirk resumed the back rub which Spock always found so enjoyable. His thoughts wandered back to the other universe, and to the strong feelings of thankfulness he'd experienced in the two days since returning home. His hands stopped their massage to embrace the warm body again. "Do you know what I love the most about you?" he whispered softly.

Spock's eyes refused to open. "That I am 'so fucking smart'," he mumbled into Kirk's chest.

Kirk gently pushed his friend over onto his side. Spock's eyes opened then, and the human smiled at him as he shook his head. "No. What I love the most about you is your gentleness." His eyes sparkled as he elaborated. "You're so much stronger than all us humans, Spock. You could break any one of my bones single-handedly." He reached out and stroked a green-tinged cheek, his voice full of wonder. "But no human – no woman – has ever treated me as gently as you have. And I don't think I've ever fully appreciated that aspect of you until now."

Spock was staring back at him, transfixed by the green-gold eyes.

"That other Spock didn't have any gentleness in him," Kirk added. "Or, if he did, it was buried very, very deep." He put his hand behind the Vulcan's head, leaned over and kissed him softly, his smile returning as he pulled back.

Spock cleared his throat. Quietly, he said, "May I say that I, too, find you more compassionate, caring and gentle than any being I have ever known?"

Kirk laid back, put his arm around Spock, and pulled the Vulcan back on top of him. "Yes, you may say that."

Spock snuggled up against him, burying his face in the captain's neck. Kirk smiled. He thought of that as "Spock's Spot." The Vulcan loved physical contact, and his favorite position was lying partly on top of Kirk with his face resting against the human's neck. Kirk wrapped both arms around the lanky body and held it tight, knowing Spock loved to be enveloped like that.

Then, after a long silence had passed, Kirk said, "I hope Bones is going to be all right."

Spock turned his face up only as much as necessary for speaking clearly. "Indeed, the meld seems to have affected him deeply."

"Do you think you might be able to do something for him?"

"I do not know what I could do."

Kirk shrugged. "Maybe you could meld with him, and perhaps he could replace the terror of being joined with that other Spock with the... experience of being joined with you."

It was a moment before Spock replied. "His hostility toward me is so great at times that I do not believe a meld with me would be much more pleasant to him than a meld with a barbarian Spock."

Kirk began scratching his friend's back again. "He loves you, Spock. In his own way. I know he does."

Spock sighed drowsily. "I would do anything in my power to help him. If he wishes a meld with me, I will do it. But it must be he who wishes it. I will not attempt to 'talk him into it'."

"I'll talk to him then," Kirk said decisively. "Maybe he'll see the logic in it."

More silence followed. Kirk sensed Spock drifting off. "You're turning into a lazy bum, First Officer," he observed.

"You have encouraged such behavior."

Kirk laughed softly. "I guess I have." He stopped his scratching and patted the slim back. "I was only teasing about Lieutenant Moreau the other day, you know."

Spock's mouth had drifted back into Kirk's neck and his reply was muffled. "I know. I knew even before I was aware that her counterpart in the other universe was the 'Captain's Woman'."

"You're getting to be too wise. I can't even fool you anymore."

"I do not know why you would wish to do so."

"Just human meanness, I guess." Kirk kissed the shoulder nearest him. "You've got goose bumps. It's time to get under the covers."

For a moment, there was no movement. Then Spock abruptly raised himself off of Kirk and helped his captain pull back the sheets. They both crawled beneath the covers and Kirk reached up to wave off the light. He laid back down and Spock regained his favorite spot.

Kirk patted his first officer's butt, then gently whispered, "Did you get enough love tonight, or would you like a more intimate form of physical contact?"

"I am content. And you?"

Kirk pulled back to look at his friend. "I'll be satisfied with a goodnight kiss."

Spock released his hand and the two leaned toward one another for a kiss. Once satisfied, both settled back down with simultaneous soft sighs.

Kirk closed his eyes. "Good night."

"Sleep well, Jim."

"Don't let the bed bugs bite."

"If I discovered such insects, I would have them removed from the ship."

Kirk giggled. "I love you, Spock."

"And I you, t'hy'la."

Spock was soon asleep. Kirk lay awake for awhile, thanking whatever gods there may be for bringing him together with his special companion. And he wished the same fate for the Kirks and Spocks in all universes throughout time.

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